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Who Invented the Telescope

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The telescope, an instrument that helps the naked eye view objects as far flung as other planets has been around for more than three centuries now. The instrument works by collecting electromagnetic radiation in this case visible light and directing this radiation to the eye. The first telescopes were invented in the Netherlands in the early 1600s. These devices used glass lenses and they were favored in the study of terrestrial objects and in astronomy. It was not long after the first reflecting telescope was invented that one was modified to use mirrors. Nowadays, there are many types of telescopes such as radio telescopes, infrared telescopes and other devices that detect different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.


The word telescope traces its etiology to the Greek language where it loosely translated to ‘far-seeing’ but the Greeks did not invent the first telescope. Three individuals are accredited with the invention of the first working telescope. Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Janssen who were spectacle makers together with Jacob Metius of Alkmaar were the first people to make a working telescope in the Netherlands in 1608. Galileo worked on their design and improved it considerably although he preferred to call it a ‘perspicillum’. He was the first person in history to use the telescope for astronomy in 1909 though, a year after the first telescope had been invented.

Lipperhey used curved lenses and combined them to enable a magnification magnitude 3 times the size of the object. He would later use the same theory to craft several pairs of binocular telescopes for the Netherland Government. There exists a dispute as to who came up with the idea first. It is Lipperhey who holds the earliest patent for a telescope in history. This can be used to settle the debate although another spectacle maker in Netherland (Jacob Metius of Alkmaar) filed a patent a few weeks after Lipperhey filed his. Still another spectacle maker, Zacahrias Janssen claimed to have invented the telescope several decades after Lipperhey and Metius had filled their patents.

Galileo after hearing news of the existence of a telescope constructed his without ever looking at one and this might be the reason as to why he is accredited with the invention of the first telescope. His design was a huge improvement from the earlier designs and it allowed him to magnify objects between 8 to 30 times as compared with the 3 times-magnification power of the earlier telescopes. To achieve this, Galileo used a series of lenses and combined them for greater magnification. His work is still available and you can still buy a Galileo telescope today. During the age of Isaac Newton, he made a larger and more powerful telescope that used reflecting mirrors and it was known as the ‘Newtonian telescope’ after its maker.

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